Some heavy duty sewing in my future! Have been looking for a vintage trailer and just brought this baby home. (No, I didn't pay the asking price!)
It's a 1962 Airstream Globetrotter 19' in need of a lot of TLC. Luckily I have just the guy to do the job! Especially since my family owned this very trailer 25 years ago and Dad knew it inside and out!
Will need new cushions and curtains so my personal machine will be getting a workout.
My personal machine right now is a 603 Touch & Sew. It's one of the early models with steel gears and it's a real workhorse. I'd love to have a 401 or 403 but haven't been able to justify keeping one when this does the job and we can sell the 401 or 403 for a much better profit.
The steel-geared 600 series is every bit as heavy duty as the 500 series and I love the wind-in-place bobbin. Since I don't typically need anything more than zig-zag it's simple to operate. But it does have the Special Disc option if I need a fancy stitch.
Considering a 600 or 603? Here's what to look for.
Take the time to pull off the drip pan and look at the gears beneath the bobbin case. You have to remove all 4 feet to remove the drip pan, but it's worth the effort to know before you buy. If the gears are metal like the ones shown at left...great!
On the other hand, if these gears are black plastic...not so good. The type of plastic Singer used on these gets very brittle with age and eventually crumble. If the gears are white then they have been replaced with nylon, which is a big improvement on the black plastic, but will not hold up to continuous heavy duty use without risk of gear-stripping.
I love my 603. It's smooth and quiet and will sew new cushion covers for my Airstream with no problem. I'll post pictures of that project when the day comes. In the meantime I'm glad I have the tools at hand. Happy Sewing! Barbara
This question pops up nearly every time I have a 401 or 500 (Rocketeer) for sale on eBay. Both models are excellent heavy duty household machines and are nearly identical mechanically. But there are some critical differences.
Singer 401 Slant-o-Matic
Slant needle Rotary hook Steel Gears .72 Amp direct drive motor Double-thread capacity tensioner Double capacity needle clamp 25+ stitch patterns built in Special Disc compartment ---- Front-mount, exposed bobbin winder 2 top-mount, fixed-position spindles
Simply stated, the 401 is the better-built machine. The Rocketeer is the begining of the end of all-metal slant-needle machines. It is still metal where it counts, but it suffers from a severe case of 'style-over-substance'-itis. The futuristic "Jetsons" styling is super cool but comes at a price. Enclosing the bobbin winder stream-lined the styling, but the auto-stop kick-out spring is prone to breakage from metal fatigue. The spring-loaded fold-down spool spindles are also prone to breakage. The removable top-mount spindle is easily lost and can be difficult to replace.
On the other hand, the Rocketeer does allow you to leave the top open while sewing so you can easily change stitch-patterns. The 401 spool spindles sit right on top of the pattern chart, which can be awkward. The 401 spindles are also vulnerable to snapping off during shipping or storage, but they are simpler to replace than the 500 spindles.
Bottom line? The 401 is tougher-built, but the Rocketeer is not far behind it. Both models are wonderful vintage Singer machines.
If you can't find a 401 in your price range, the Rocketeer may be the machine for you. A very good condition 500 will typically cost less than an equivalent 401.
Happy sewing! Barbara OldSewinGear...dedicated to helping you get the most out of your old sewing gear.
I learned to sew on a Featherweight. I was 3 years old when my grandmother died and her Featherweight came to my mother. Then, when I was about 8 years old, my big sister Marilyn showed me how to make Barbie clothes on that Featherweight. Thus began a lifelong love affair with sewing.
In the late 50's my grandparents lived in a little mobile home in Palm Springs. She needed a machine for mending and dressmaking, but didn't have space for a large machine. My uncle was working in a Singer store and told her "you need a Featherweight." She bought one second-hand and was thrilled...she could sew a turned-up hem on my grandfather's work trousers without doing it by hand!
That is the wonder of the Featherweight. It puts larger machines to shame in punching power, but is half their size and weight.
But mainly, they are cute. There is just something special about a Featherweight. At first you think it's a toy and you just have to touch it. And then you discover it's a real machine!
These days, Grandmother's Featherweight lives with big sister Marilyn. I enjoy seeing it on display in her sewing room and remembering my first fumbling attempts at winding a bobbin. I have my own Featherweight now. I smile every time I look at it.
And very soon I will be teaching my niece to sew...on a Featherweight.
OldSewinGear is the collaborative effort of retired repairman Gary and daughter Barbara. We love old sewing gear and enjoy sharing what we've learned in our vintage sewing machine adventures. We are located in Roseburg, Oregon.